Car Test   R0317
March 2003
First Drive Honda Accord
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Honda has had enough of the Accord being viewed as just another repmobile alongside all the usual suspects. So, in an attempt to float the new Accord up-market, it’s repositioning it as a ‘quality sports saloon’. Hatchback fans might be a bit miffed, but an estate car (Tourer) version is just around the corner.
   Although the wheelbase remains unchanged, the overall dimensions are increased, and our tape measure proved that the claim of a more spacious cabin in no idle boast. Head and legroom, for example, are usefully improved for all. This includes the driver, who enjoys supportive comfort at the fully adjustable wheel, particularly in the Executive models, which have a pair of eight-way power seats up front. Equally impressive, however, are the big, bold backlit instruments, which are models of clarity, together with fine controls and sound ergonomics. We like the action of the floor-hinged ‘organ pedal’ accelerator, as well.
   With the 1.8-litre dropped, the engine line-up now compromises 2.0- and 2.4-litre units, the latter with a six-speed gearbox as standard. The lusty two-litre is just a shade tremulous below 2000rpm, beyond which it takes full advantage of its generous 155bhp with spirited acceleration. Even the ‘big four’ 2.4 proves very smooth, with low-speed pulling and motorway cruising equally refined – accentuated, in the case of our test car, by the excellent five-speed automatic transmission. The manual ‘box is a pleasure to use, too, although the light shift feels a shade ‘loose’.
   Like most of its rivals, with the exception of the Rover 75 and Citroën C5, the Accord puts emphasis on cornering prowess with responsive handling and steering. Nothing wrong with that, provided you can accept the firmer ride that accompanies it. This is at its worst at lower speeds, when disturbance feeds in on broken B-roads. It’s more noticeable on the 2.4 because of that model’s 55-Series tyres. Progress is calmer on smoother surfaces, but Mondeo and Laguna still have the edge, while the Rover has them all for breakfast.
   Road grip is excellent, and the two-litre’s smooth, lag-free electric power steering is a good example of its type. If anything, though, the 2.4’s conventional hydraulic helm feels a shade more ‘authentic’. The powerful brakes are marred by a too light, over-servoed pedal that gives head-nodding stops at low speeds.
   There’s room for three in the back, but avoid the roly-poly centre section if possible. Passengers sit rather low, so headroom is good at the expense of thigh support for lankier types. Otherwise it’s a comfortable, nicely angled seat offering a leg/kneeroom combination that only the (longer) Mondeo can better.
   Although the boot is marred by a high rear sill, it’s roomier than its curvaceous interior looks. As a bonus, the back seats are divided 60/40 and fold to provide additional load space. This applies even on the base SE, which is extremely well equipped – it even has a sunroof as well as dual-zone climate control, for example.
  considering size, price and rivals
  • 'slam-thunk' door closure
  • boot contents secure from interior
  • big, comfortable footrest beside clutch
  • double ball-jointed interior mirror
  • well-protected sills
  • rear head restraints don't recess into seatbacks
  • lever seat recliners adjust in steps
  • speedometer calibrated 20, 40, 60 etc
  • steel space-saver spare wheel
  • SE's shiny plastic trim may displease traditionalists
Even on brief acquaintance with the Accord, we’re impressed. Our only serious misgiving is over the suspension that (in common with Civic and Jazz), needs more work to eradicate that fidgety ride; it seems to be the price you’re expected to pay for the car being a sharper operator through the bends. Otherwise, thanks to its greater mechanical refinement, generous safety and equipment levels, and particularly those superb power trains, the Accord motors masterfully straight up there with the best of the upper-medium class bunch.

engine 1998cc, 4 cylinder, petrol; DOHC with i-VTEC variable valve timing and lift. 155bhp at 6000rpm, 140 lb ft at 4500rpm
drive 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive; 22.1mph/1000rpm in 5th
suspension front: independent double wishbones and coil springs, anti-roll bar
rear: double wishbones and coil springs with five-link location, anti-roll bar
wheels/tyres 6in alloy with 195/65R15V tyres; temporary-use steel spare
brakes ventilated discs front, solid discs rear with brake assist/ABS and brake force distribution
0-62mph* 9.6sec
official mpg~ 28.0/47.9/38.2
maximum speed* 138mph
CO2 emissions 176g/km
* maker's figure  ~ urban/extra urban/combined

size and type mid-priced, upper-medium saloon and estate (Tourer)   trim levels 2.0SE/Sport/Executive, 2.4 Executive/Type S
engines petrol: 4 cylinder/2.0 litre/155bhp, 4/2.4/190
diesel: due next year
  drive front-wheel drive, 2.0: 5-speed manual, 2.4: 6-speed manual; 5-speed stepped automatic (with sequential manual mode) optional
notable features touch-screen DVD satnav, side indicators in door mirrors, curtain airbags, pedestrian-protection features, rain-sensing wipers with fine tuner, high-level display for time, temperature and radio settings, sports suspension option, fully automatic power tailgate (Tourer)

  in centimetres (4-door saloon)
  length 467
  width - including mirrors 176
  height 145
  load sill height (inside/outside) 24/75
  turns lock-to-lock 2.9*
  turning circle (metres) 11.6*
  easy to park/garage?
  front - legroom 89-112
    - headroom 90-96§
  rear - typical legroom 103
    - typical kneeroom 78
    - headroom 93
    - hiproom 130
  load area(all seats in use)
  load space
(litres/cu ft)
  load length 98/190#
  load length to facia no
  load width 90-141
  load height 48
* maker's figure  # rear seat folded  § with sunroof
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